Uh.

So. I write a post asking what you guys want to see me write more of; and my response? To write nothing. That was unexpected. At least for me!

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But I have been working on stuff. And doing stuff. I’d include pictures, but… not this time!

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1. I got accepted into a Masters of Communication via Open University Australia; at Griffith University. This now means I have access to JSTOR, which makes me a happy marshmallow panda.

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2. We went down south to Pemberton and Margaret River and it was all at once; rugged, inspirational, like living in a Ghibli movie (especially Spirited Away), very difficult, challenging, anxiety-inducing, filled with cockroaches, filled with immense beauty, colonised with karri trees, made of awesome Chicken Treat chicken rolls, intoxicated with Duckstein beer (especially altbier), and created with great music. Thanks Hisaishi, for the soundtrack!

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3. I have a list of projects which looks something like this:

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– finish two short stories
– finish long-form fanfiction
– finish Katt’s forest (largest illustration I’ve ever inked)
– outline three science fiction novels
– outline Little Wolverine, a fiction-non-fiction narrative book about shamanism
– first drafts of all of these outlines
– etc.

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4. Things I’m not doing for the next Australian financial year include; working on getting any tarot or oracle decks published. Sorry! I will be building my own personal deck though; and may start offering professional readings. I’ll need to trial a bunch first to make sure the system is effective.

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So this is what’s been happening. Plus a ton of other stuff. Realisations about life. Increased PTSD symptoms. Drafts and sketches and finished illustrations. An upcoming interview in a holistic magazine (will link once it’s published) and finding out that the book on animism in which I have both an article (on Shinto and animism in the works of Hayao Miyazaki) and illustrated the cover art may be getting published soon.

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I’ve been enjoying the Winter. Wishing it would rain more, storm more tempestuously, and offer more gloom. Wishing that this didn’t cause my friends with arthritis more pain. It’s hard to love weather systems that hurt people. I am dealing with some of this (and living in ‘usually very dry Perth’) by writing a science fiction series set on a planet with a ridiculous amount of rain and storm.

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Live nature. Love nature.

xanthorrhea seed stalk close up, by Ravenari

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…’Yet I also appreciate that we cannot win this battle to slave species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well – for we will not fight to save what we do not love (but only appreciate in some abstract sense). So let them all continue – the films, the books, the television programs, the zoos, the little half acre of ecological preserve in any community, the primary school lessons, the museum demonstrations, even (though you will never find me there) the 6.00am bird walks.

Let the continue and expand because we must have visceral contact in order to love. We really must make room for nature in our hearts.’

-> Stephen Jay Gould, Eight Little Piggies.

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One of the many reasons I’m an animist. Illustrate nature and animals. Walk the land. Research it. I love it tremendously. It’s not just some abstract beauty in my heart, but a real, visceral, existing force combined of many living forces.

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For if we do not truly learn to love it, like we love our family and friends and lovers and animal companions; we cannot truly preserve and nourish it in more than an abstract way. Animism is one of the many pathways to that love, but so is genuine research, spending time in a landscape and learning it for what it is, talking to others who love the land and sea and the animals within it, and connecting with that love.

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I wish more people would take the time to learn to love that which gives them life in a truly real way.

The problem with being too driven…

The problem with being too driven in self-work and self-awareness.

Tonight I am pondering the endless work of Sisyphus. The endless pushing of the stone up the hill, the endless rolling of the stone to the bottom of the hill, the eternal suffering for the sake of ‘progress,’ and the slaves that it makes of us.

Sisyphus pushing the rock.

Progress is a myth in the sense that; progress can happen, but it will never be the salvation of humankind while humankind exists. To gain this non-existent progress, we must work endlessly, more than ever, we must slave for something we cannot have, and for something that is also endless. We must be Sisyphus, ever struggling, always tired, never ‘there yet.’

And tonight I’m pondering it specifically in relationship to my own attitudes towards self-work. My struggle for the myth of progress within myself, has created a situation where I have become a slave to that progress, and now I suffer greatly for it. That is its greatest irony. The flaw of my consciousness that pits me against myself.

So once more, in order to understand this, I turn to the innate wit and knowledge of animals. And again, to one of the most unthinking of animals; the snail. I do not wish to be a slave to self-work. It makes me suicidal and at best, it makes me absolutely certain that life is without a point. That is not something they teach you about in therapy, and – I believe – it is not in the curricula of therapists either. That self-work can lead to death if it is not balanced with an unconscious, ‘animal’ care of the self.

It can’t all be conscious thought and maintenance. That is to be a slave to consciousness. And without consciousness, we wouldn’t have mental illness in the first place (no, really; the most unconscious of animals don’t even have ‘mental illness’ in their lexicon for a reason). It is a grand irony then, that the very thing that makes us so dysfunctional by animal standards is the very thing we – sometimes wrongly – depend upon to regain function.

Animism has taught me differently. Consciousness has its place, but so does unconsciousness which makes up the vastness of the bodymind in the first place, and informs our ‘free will’ so that we will nothing that our unconscious doesn’t ask of us first. And I have learnt more from the instinctive and innate world of other species than I have from any book or any other human animal. Consciousness will have its place in my healing, but right now it has made me a slave of the healing process, and it will be my unconscious that frees me.

I am tired of being a Sisyphus to my own mental health and mental illness. I will try to go a Snail’s way. I will let the great stone roll down to the bottom of the hill and leave it there. I will go and innately find food and shelter, rest and play, rain and crispy green things. Not in the name of progress, not even in the name of health, but because that is what animals will sometimes do. And if health or progress comes of it, then I am sure the therapeutic world may be happier, and my friends and family might be happier, and I might even benefit from it in the long-term.

snail as totem - by Ravenari

But if nothing comes of it, at least in the short term I cannot say that my life is pointless any longer. Because there is nothing pointless in the rain and green crispy things, in rest and play, in food and shelter.

And because there is a great deal of pointlessness in being Sisyphus, rolling my stone of ‘self-work’ up the hill only to see it fall to the bottom again representing yet another allotment of heavy work for the tired and overworked; the endless, eternal suffering for the myth of progress.

02. all you need is - by Ravenari

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Whale as Totem (early)

I’m pretty obsessed with drawing animals. And animal totems. And animals as totems. And so on. I know this, because I’ve submitted something like over 300 different deviations into the ‘traditional – animals’ category at my DeviantArt account. And that’s not including animals that count in the ‘fantasy’ category, either.

I love animals. I love that I am an animal. I’m not such a big fan of the dichotomy set up between humans and nature, as though, because we’re capable of creating plastics we are somehow not a part of nature anymore. Sorry to disappoint, but even the destructive things are a part of nature. I am not one of those people who puts humans on a pedestal, or does something equally naive (in my opinion), and castigate them over all other animals.

Whale as Totem - unpublished Australian Animal Oracle Deck

This is ‘Whale as Totem’, from the unpublished Australian Animal Oracle Deck, back when I was still at the beginning of developing my ‘totem artwork’ style. The shapes used are personal symbols, because I found the idea of poaching from Indigenous cultures to be highly distasteful. I also thought that it wouldn’t be too hard to develop a personal symbology; being already very spiritual, and loving seeing meanings in symbols anyway. And it wasn’t that hard.

This is before I was using watercolour pencils (I was scared of them), so all the colouring is via coloured pencils.

I draw what I’m compelled to draw. And animals are part of that. I might not be vegetarian, I might think that plastics are as much a ‘part of nature’ as a bumblebee, even if they’re not biodegradable, but celebrating nature through artwork is part of what I do.